Selling your smartphone online? You may be making a huge mistake

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Buying and trading goods used to be so easy. If I needed a rake and my neighbor needed a hoe, we could simply swap. If I wanted to sell something, I would take out a classified ad in a local newspaper, like the Penny Saver. Hell, I bought my first car that way -- loved that thing.

Nowadays, buying and selling is much more complicated -- especially electronics. You can buy something from eBay or Craigslist only to find out that it doesn't work or is stolen. Smartphones and tablets can be risky to sell, because you have to remember to wipe your data before giving it to the other party. If you forget, the buyer can get your personal information and private photos. Forget to delete that sexy selfie that you took? Some weirdo from eBay now has it and will spread it around the net. Today, Avast announces that as a test it purchased 20 used and supposedly wiped phones from the net. The personal data recovered is shocking.

"The amount of personal data we retrieved from the phones was astounding. We found everything from a filled-out loan form to more than 250 selfies of what appear to be the previous owner's manhood. We purchased a variety of Android devices from sellers across the US and used readily available recovery software to dig up personal information that was previously on the phones. The take-away is that even deleted data on your used phone can be recovered unless you completely overwrite it", says Jude McColgan, President of Mobile at Avast.

McColgan further explains, "more than 80,000 used smartphones are for sale daily on eBay in the US. Along with their phones, consumers may not realize they are selling their memories and their identities. Images, emails, and other documents deleted from phones can be exploited for identity theft, blackmail, or for even stalking purposes. Selling your used phone is a good way to make a little extra money, but it's potentially a bad way to protect your privacy".

Avast recovered the following from the devices:

  • More than 40,000 stored photos
  • More than 1,500 family photos of children
  • More than 750 photos of women in various stages of undress
  • More than 250 selfies of what appear to be the previous owner's manhood
  • More than 1,000 Google searches
  • More than 750 emails and text messages
  • More than 250 contact names and email addresses
  • Four previous owners’ identities
  • One completed loan application

So, as you can see, selling a smartphone online is a very dangerous ordeal. Even if you are smart and wipe the phone, crafty bad guys can still recover your deleted data. The question becomes, is the risk worth the reward? In other words, if your data is tame and unimportant, maybe it does not matter. However, if you use your device to store sensitive information, such as for business use, you should probably think twice.

Do you sell your used smartphones online? Tell me about it in the comments.

Photo credit: PathDoc / Shutterstock

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